Music critics who pan the daring of Jack’s best solo album yet are missing its point entirely
The Jack White solo catalog began moderately enough in its ability to sate fans just looking for that familiar feel the guitarist brands on all of his bands, be it the Dead Weather, The Raconteurs or The White Stripes.
But when he delivered his apparent final Columbia-affiliated LP Boarding House Reach, White stumbled upon a sound almost as ingenious as the decision to marry MC5 fury with Led Zep flash to create The White Stripes in the further interpolation of hip-hop elements into his songcraft.
Fans of White’s old timey shtick who seemed to recoil from the breadth of progress on display across Boarding House Reach, however, will not find much to appreciate on his first of two albums planned for 2022.
Artist: Jack White
Album: Fear of the Dawn
Label: Third Man Records
★★★★1/2 (4.5/5 stars)
Like Beck Hansen and Jon Spencer before him, Jack brings a bluesman’s eye to a jumbled wire nest of sonic onomatopoeia that seems to pull liberally from the toolkits of John Hammond and the RZA with equal aplomb. Much of the trickery, mind you, seems to stem from White’s eye-opening guitar playing here on tracks like “Esophobia” and culminating in some of the best six-string work of his near 25-year career in music.
Meanwhile, the hip-hop sound is well agitated on the Cab Calloway-sampling, Q-Tip assisted “Hi De Ho” and the ferocious “What’s The Trick,” where White channels Tom Morello’s guitar turntablism technique. And though tracks like the Tour of Duty-shilling opening track “Taking Me Back,” the blistering title cut and the stomping “That Was Then, This Is Now” will no doubt sate fans only looking for Jack to rehash his past, its moments like the Zappa-isms of “Into The Twilight” and the super clean Robert Cray-evoking scale runs on closing number “Shedding My Velvet” that longtime fans should treasure because they don’t sound like anything in White’s arsenal.
It’s been pretty funny reading all these middling reviews in Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Consequence and whatever whining about how Fear of the Dawn doesn’t present like the Jack White of 20 years ago. They are all hoping his second solo LP of 2022–tentatively titled Entering Heaven Alive and due out on July 22–will be safer for their precious ear holes because it promises to be a mellower, folkier affair. And based on the familiar territory Jack mines for its first single “Love Is Selfish,” their wish might come true for an album filled with familiarities.
But for those of us who listen to Jack White for the challenge he offers his most ardent fans, Fear of the Dawn stands strong as a genuine triumph in the oveure of a true American original.